Fantasy Football Mailbag: Wednesday 11/30/16

After being blanked in Week 12, is it time to move on from Brandin Cooks in fantasy football? And can we go back to Russell Wilson after a similarly-disappointing game?

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Now, let's answer some questions.

Email submission from Fred Gilbert:

What do you make of the Brandin Cooks situation? All season long he has been OK... #15 overall in standard scoring, but has definitely been hot and cold from game to game which made it a somewhat risky each week. Darned if you do and darned if you don't. However this past weeks game was really extremely difficult to understand. Zero targets in a game with Drew Brees on fire with 310 passing yards and Zero Targets to Cooks???

Please allow me a few minutes to wipe the vomit off my mouth. I still haven't recovered from Brandin Cooks in Week 12, and I don't expect to do so any time in the near future.

As Fred mentioned, this is kind of what you get with Cooks. He has more than 140 yards in two games this season, but he has also been held to fewer than 45 in five games. He's basically as boom-or-bust as you can get, and those busts can be big ones. And the reasons for concern go beyond just his goose egg in Week 12.

In the first three games of the season, Cooks' snap rate never dipped below 85.5%. In the eight games since, he has been above that number only once. He has had more than six targets just once since Week 8, and even with an insanely efficient quarterback like Drew Brees, that's a problem. Cooks' usage appears to be trending in the wrong way, and we can't simply overlook that. It doesn't mean we should fully give up on him in season-long, though.

Despite the usage concerns, Cooks has still managed to find the end zone in three of his past four home games, and he has five touchdowns in six games at the Superdome. His upside is still considerable, and there's value in that. When he's in plus matchups (like the one he'll have this weekend against the Detroit Lions), he's a guy you want in your lineups, even if he's far less dependable and valuable than his teammate, Michael Thomas.

As we wrote yesterday here on numberFire, Kirk Cousins is performing at an MVP level right now. When you're as efficient as he has been, you're going to carry immense fantasy football potential. That said, last week's game doesn't necessarily scrub Russell Wilson from consideration.

The Seattle Seahawks had to play that game without their starting center, Justin Britt. Britt was active for the game, but after not practicing throughout the week, he was unable to play a single snap. Britt is expected to be back this week, inspiring optimism that Wilson can get back to the high-efficiency ways he had flashed the previous three games.

The other plus with Wilson is he's finally back to rushing the football. He had eight carries last week, his second consecutive game at that mark after not exceeding six in any other game this season. When you have an efficient Wilson with rushing upside, there are few quarterbacks more valuable in all of fantasy football.

Finally, Wilson's schedule appears more conducive to fantasy success than that of Cousins. Over the next four weeks (through Week 16), Wilson will face just one team ranked higher than 13th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. Cousins will face numberFire's fifth-ranked pass defense this week in the Arizona Cardinals, and his only matchup against a team outside the top 15 comes Week 16 against the Chicago Bears. Cousins' schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 is better than Wilson's, meaning there is merit to holding both, but Wilson's rekindled rushing abilities give him the overall edge.

Jameis Winston's schedule is dope the rest of the way with two matchups against the New Orleans Saints, and that's enough to give him an edge over Matthew Stafford. But he also merits a bit more discussion because he has been straight dealing recently.

Entering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week 6 bye, Winston had -2.25 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), numberFire's metric for tracking the expected points a player adds on each play. Since the bye, Winston has a whopping 74.25 Passing NEP, equating to 0.35 Passing NEP per drop back. Tom Brady leads the league for the season in that stat at 0.40. Basically, Winston has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football the past few weeks, and that's something we want to note.

Winston has the schedule we want and he's scorching the Earth right now. There aren't many guys who look more attractive for fantasy over the rest of the year than he does.

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